WILMETTE — Missing its top three running backs because of injuries and a funeral and facing a St. Ignatius side that loves to blitz, the Loyola football team seemed destined for a big performance from its passing game.
After some early overthrows and drops, the Ramblers (3-0) showed just how dangerous they could be through the air in Saturday’s 42-0 route of St. Ignatius.
“There was some stuff (early) we had to fix. I know we had some drops,” senior quarterback Jack Penn said. “Once we got comfortable out there, we started capitalizing on everything and took advantage of what they were throwing at us.
“I have complete faith in my receivers. I know (after a drop) that they’re going to come back and make the next play and catch every ball I put to them.”
Penn (18 of 30 passing for 218 yards and four touchdowns) spread the ball around to five different receivers against St. Ignatius.
The first-year starting quarterback showed he could stretch the defense by completing passes downfield. But his most successful weapon against the Wolfpack (1-2) was the screen pass. Several times, Ramblers receivers caught short passes and took the ball for long runs.
“Those (screens) are perfectly designed plays,” said junior Owen Buscaglia, who turned one screen into a 28-yard gain and another into a 25-yard touchdown. “It’s a credit to the linemen who get out there and block everyone that needs to be. We just kind of follow their butts. It’s just perfect blocking.”
Buscaglia, who is 6-foot-2, is a new addition to the receiving corps which returns two starters in seniors Joe Joyce and Joe Dixon, a 6-3, 225-pound tight end. The group also includes senior Fran O’Malley and juniors Spencer Cecola, Paddy Nicolau and Bobby Walker.
“We’re very deep,” Dixon said. “We have seven or eight guys who can come in at any time when we need them. If anybody goes down, someone can step right back in and we don’t lose a beat.”
Dixon added: “Everyone (in the receiving corps) knows how to play at least two positions, so we can move everybody around at any time.”
Over the summer, Penn and the receivers got together at least three times a week outside of practice in order to work on their timing. The signal caller said the group has developed a nice bond.
“We worked all summer long. We really got comfortable with each other,” Penn said. “We’re great friends outside of football, and inside football. That makes our play that much better.”
Dixon said Penn is the glue that holds the group together.
“He’s the best leader; the best around,” Dixon said about the quarterback. “He gets everybody riled up for every game. He calms us down when we’re too high and brings us up if we’re too low, which is perfect.”